AFC Champions League 2012

Not with a Roar but a whimper
by Andrew Demack

Group F - Round 4 - 2nd Leg
7:30pm, Tuesday 17 April, 2012
at Brisbane Football Stadium

Brisbane Roar FC 1
(Shane Stefanutto 25')
lost to
Ulsan Hyundai FC 2
(Juan Velez 11’, Kwak Tae-Hwi 73' pen)

Brisbane Roar’s first Asian Champions League campaign is likely to end in the group stages, after the A-League champions suffered their second home loss in the ACL, going down 1-2 to Ulsan Hyundai at Suncorp Stadium last night.

But unlike their first home loss to FC Tokyo, there were plenty of positives in this performance. Brisbane at times resembled their A-League best, with a patient and persistent passing game that managed to open up Ulsan Hyundai. The Roar created enough chances to win the game, but on this occasion couldn’t come up with the cool finish required to seal the deal.

A full-strength Brisbane came out to play, despite the prospect of the A-League Grand Final coming up on Sunday. The Brisbane public have made their choice clear … sales are through the roof for Sunday, with the prospect of another full house for the grand final. But only 7015 Roar fans came out on a beautiful Tuesday evening for this game.

The first few minutes were cautious from both sides. Brisbane were winning the ball, but just feeling their way forward slowly. And Ulsan were sitting back, but looking for any opportunity to pounce on wayward passes.

In the 11th minute, a poor pass forward from Mohammed Adnan put Mitch Nichols under immense pressure. He was robbed by two Ulsan players, and the ball came to lively Colombian attacker Juan Estiven Velez. He beat Theoklitos from the edge of the area with a swerving left foot shot.

Brisbane looked rattled by going behind again in Asian competition. Murdocca and Franjic stepped up to the mark however, and were having strong games. Stefanutto and Broich were also combining well. Mitch Nichols didn’t have his best night, his first touch left him down a couple of time, on a pitch that is starting to show the effects of a rainy summer and three codes of football using the same venue.

Brisbane levelled the score after a period of sustained pressure, with a most unlikely scorer. After probing down the right, the ball came back to Murdocca in the middle of the field. He spotted Shane Stefanutto’s forward run, and floated a pass forward.

Stefanutto’s left-foot volley was either a cross or a shot, but he hit it sweetly enough, and it took a minor deflection off a defender’s arm and beat the keeper. 1-1. This was Stefanutto’s third goal in 15 years of senior football, and his first for the Roar.

Brisbane kept playing their style of football, and if Erik Paartalu had managed to hit the target late in the half, they might have gone to the break with the lead.

But Ulsan had their chances as well, Keun-ho putting the ball over the ball with his knee from close range.

The game was poised at 1-1 at the break. And Brisbane continued to work hard towards a vital win in the second period. But as always, they were highly vulnerable to a counter attack.

And so it proved. Substitute Luke Brattan was teed up for the shot on the edge of the area, and clattered it into the crossbar. The ball broke for an Ulsan counter, and in the Roar’s defensive end, Adnan was adjudged to have fouled Kang Min-Soo. The call was harsh as contact was very minimal and the attacking player was certainly looking for an excuse to go down.

Ulsan’s skipper and central defender Kwak Tae-Hwi took the spot kick. And unusually for a defender, he utilised the “dink it down the middle after the keeper dives out of the way” method.

So Brisbane spent the last 20 minutes chasing the game and getting increasingly frustrated by the Korean team, which took a ‘professional’ approach, slowing down the restarts wherever possible, and committing niggly fouls in the middle of the park.

Brisbane still had their chances – Henrique could have equalised with a volley only a couple of minutes from the end – but a cannier opponent won the day.

Postecoglu was philosophical after the game, and didn’t sound like a coach who was ready to leave the club for another A-League appointment.

“We know where we’re at and we wanted to play this tournament in a certain kind of way and I think we have in the last three games,” he said. “We’re not quite there yet, in terms of real quality, we’re not quite there and there’s no shame in saying that and that’s how we want to be and how we want to improve.”

Brisbane’s season has been up and down, and yet there is still the chance for the Roar to be the first team to defend the A-League crown. Back of the Net will be there again on Sunday for the visit of Perth Glory.

Over-confidence is the fan’s worst state. Postecoglu and the team are far too professional and well-drilled to take a grand final lightly, but I’m predicting a 3-0 win to the home side.

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